Kapahulu is a laidback Honolulu neighbourhood directly east of Waikiki Beach. While busy Waikiki brims with sky-rise hotels and oversized malls, this area has a more residential vibe. Quiet suburban streets, leafy parklands, and scores of mom-and-pop stores comprise the zone, making it a tranquil place to visit within easy reach of central Honolulu.

The locals refer to Kapahulu as the “Oldest Little Business Town” in Oahu because it’s remained much the same over the last century or so. While other neighborhoods have evolved through ambitious development projects, it still retains its vintage charm.

Kapahulu has several worthwhile attractions, including the picture-postcard Diamond Head. And if you’re hungry, it’s also an up-and-coming gastronomic hotspot. Rows of delicious eateries line Kapahulu Avenue, with friendly, family-run restaurants outnumbering the brash international chains.

We’ll show you the top places to visit and dine so you can make the most of your time in this lesser-known part of Honolulu.

Kapahulu in Honolulu - one of the highlights of 11 Most Popular Neighbourhoods in Honolulu (Read all about Honolulu here)

What are the highlights and features of Kapahulu?

Kapahulu’s biggest draw is Diamond Head, an iconic extinct volcano that towers over Honolulu. A rugged trail toward the summit attracts adventurers each day for its sweeping views. Although it appears daunting from the bottom, the 1.5-mile return trip only takes 1.5 hours. The trail is suitable for anyone in reasonable physical condition, both young and old.

Kapiolani Park is the largest municipal parkland in Hawaii. The wide-open space features stacks of sporting facilities – basketball, cricket, volleyball, baseball, soccer, and more – plus a big bandstand for open-air concerts and events. Head west and you’ll hit Kapiʻolani Beach Park, an uncrowded spot to sunbathe and swim.

Where to eat in Kapahulu?

Ask any local about Kapahulu, and they’ll mention the food. While the fanciest digs reside in Waikiki, this neighbourhood is more about hearty (and affordable) Hawaiian cuisine. Rows of mom-and-pop establishments line Kapahulu Avenue, which is rapidly becoming a low-key culinary hub.

Your first port of call should be Leonard’s Bakery, a Honolulu institution for its decadent malasadas. The family-run haunt first started selling these sugary Portuguese-style doughnuts in the 1950s, and they’ve since achieved legendary status.

Elsewhere on the avenue, long-standing local favorite Tokkuri Tei does tasty Japanese fare in a casual izakaya (gastro-pub) setting. Nearby, Rainbow Drive-In is a lunchtime hit for its hearty mahi-mahi and chili dogs – both well worth the wait.

Ono Hawaiian Foods serves enormous plates of traditional cuisine in a no-frills diner, while Side Street Inn is your best bet for American comfort food. If you’re keen to try pupu, a Hawaiian appetizer or finger food, wander over to Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar and Broil.

photo by Bob Linsdell (CC BY 3.0) modified

Good to know about Kapahulu

You won’t find any hotels in this unhurried residential zone aside from a couple of seaside digs by Kaimana Beach. Most tourists base themselves in Waikiki, either by the beach or on Kuhio Avenue.

The Kapiʻolani Regional Park is within walking distance of Waikiki Beach. The pleasant beachfront stroll should take you 15 minutes or so. For the Diamond Head hike, take TheBus #23 from Kuhio Avenue and hop off at the Visitors Center (parking also available).

As for restaurants, TheBus #13 departs Kuhio Avenue and will get you to Kapahulu Avenue in under 20 minutes. There’s plenty of parking available in the area, too.

Kapahulu in Honolulu

Harry Stewart | Contributing Writer